Monday, November 15, 2010

DeMint Wants Steele Out As RNC Chair

Appearing on Fox News Sunday today, an appallingly smug Sen. Jim DeMint was asked if he thinks a second term for RNC chair Michael Steele would be “good or bad for the party.” DeMint,   once again unwilling to admit his own role in limiting Republican Senate gains, answered:
“I want to look at the choices.  Frankly, I think where we lost a few senate seats, our ground game was not as strong as it could have been.  We were actually outmanned on the ground.  And going into 2012 we need a really strong leader for the Republican Party to match the get-out-the-vote we saw from the Obama machine last time.  And so I appreciate Michael Steele’s service, but I'm looking for some alternatives right now.”

This is just outrageous blame-shifting on DeMint’s part.  Steele oversaw the best Republican showing in more than 70 years, and while Steele’s portion of the credit for those wins is up for debate, he certainly didn’t go out of his way to endorse an unelectable half-wit in Delaware and blow an easy Senate race.  DeMint has shown exactly zero remorse on that score since election day.  His line is that Christine O’Donnell was torpedoed by intra-party criticism after her primary win, a claim equally as preposterous as the argument fed to, and parroted by, Sarah Palin on election night (Palin insists Mike Castle would also have lost to Chris Coons despite every pre-GOP primary poll showing Castle ahead of Coons by 20). 

In that Fox interview, DeMint, in the context of his proposed earmark ban, also went out of his way to dismiss reports of a feud between himself and Mitch McConnell -- “Mitch is a good friend.”  Has McConnell forgiven DeMint for Delaware?  Do they have a deal to forget about DeMint’s O’Donnell’s endorsement so long as DeMint pledges to use better judgment in the future?  Who knows.

But it’s clear that DeMint intends to help push Steele out the door after the Republicans’ triumph.  That’s going to look great.  Who will replace Steele?  DeMint’s fellow South Carolinian, Katon Dawson, who lost to Steele last time around, is interested in running again.  Remember him?  He belonged to a WHITES ONLY COUNTRY CLUB.  Replacing Steele with Dawson would sure work wonders for GOP outreach in the northeast.

Steele’s prominence showed independent voters that the GOP is more than the  Southern Strategy, and his “gaffes” drew attention to the fact that the party is led by someone other than a bloated good ‘ole boy with a comb-over.  On top of the positive optics, Robert Schlesinger, in US News, makes the case that Steele’s “Fire Pelosi” bus tour served to boost enthusiasm for GOP candidates across the country:

“Give credit where it’s due.  The RNC’s ‘Fire Pelosi’ campaign got underappreciated traction in the general election. …  When they hung a ‘Fire Pelosi’ sign outside the RNC, they got flak from some House GOPers -- too much invective, especially directed against a woman.  But when Steele unveiled his ‘Fire Pelosi’ bus tour at the RNC’s summer session, it got uproarious applause.  He covered 13,000 miles in the lower 48 states, rallying with some 230 candidates.  And it came in well under budget, I’m told.”

Steele might not have been the most eloquent spokesman for Republicans, and he might have  badly undersold the potential appeal of conservatism to African-Americans, but the GOP could do with a lot more of his type of good natured awkwardness, and a lot less of Jim DeMint spouting off on how unmarried women and gays are unfit to serve as primary school teachers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Draft Harry Wilson For NYGOP Chair

A couple of thoughts on the future of the New York GOP:

In 2006, John Faso, of whom the worst that could be said was that he was boring, received a truly astounding 29.2% of the vote against Elliott Spitzer.

This year, Carl Paladino, of whom it can fairly be said that he is a politically-suicidal mouth-breathing troglodyte, got 34.1%.

While Paladino went down by 27.3%, GOP comptroller candidate Harry Wilson lost by about 2%.  And four or five Democratic incumbents from New York's Congressional delegation lost.

All of this should make NY Republicans a little bit optimistic about the party's long-term prospects, especially the massive number of ticket splitters who boosted Wilson.

On the other hand...

 State GOP chair Ed Cox, who did nothing to insulate Wilson or AG candidate Dan Donovan from the Paladino plague, and ought to have been chased out of Albany by now, is vowing to stay put and even resisting pressure to drop one of his top aides.

George Pataki, who endorsed Paladino after Paladino called him a "degenerate idiot,"  is mulling a presidential run in 2012 --  which causes one to wonder whether he is driven more by self delusion or the appeal of months of donor-funded meals and lodging.  In other words, is he more Mike Gravel or Al Sharpton?  Either way, Pataki has no place in the future of the state party.

If the NY GOP is to build on the encouraging results from last week, its new leaders will need to openly denounce Paladino, just about anyone who endorsed Paladino, Cox, Pataki and Joe Bruno.  Who will lead the way?  What are Harry Wilson's plans?  As a Goldman Sachs and Blackstone alum, he probably doesn't need to worry about his next paycheck -- so why not make a run for the NYGOP chairmanship?

Monday, November 8, 2010

DeMint: GOP Critics Of O’Donnell To Blame For Her Loss.

Deflecting his share of the blame for the GOP’s loss in Delaware, Sen. Jim DeMint is arguing that Christine O’Donnell could have been a contender if only establishment Republicans had dummied up about her history of crazy talk. Asked about his endorsement of O’Donnell, DeMint, appearing on “Meet The Press” Sunday, said, “The tea party are responsible for just about every Republican who was elected around the country. This time last year…we were concerned about holding our own. Many thought Republicans would fall below 38 in the Senate. So I supported all the Republican candidates, including Christine O'Donnell. Unfortunately, she was so maligned by Republicans, I don't think she ever had a chance. … We did see, in the wake of her primary win, a number of Republicans suggest she was not a viable candidate. That did make it difficult for her to start on the right foot.”

Palin And DeMint Critics Go Too Far; Bachus: “Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate” -- Really?

Critics of the Palin-DeMint juggernaut need to acknowledge some implausible or flatly inaccurate criticism of the dynamic duo.

The Shelby County Reporter reported over the weekend that last Thursday, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R AL), who is set to chair the House Financial Services Committee, told the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce, “Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate.”

As much as I enjoy holding Palin (and DeMint) accountable for the Delaware loss, this seems like quite a stretch. As Palin mouthpiece Ian Lazaran notes, Palin "did not endorse either Sharron Angle or Ken Buck in their respective primaries." Which is to say, you can argue that tea party GOP primary voters cost the GOP the Senate, but it doesn't really follow that Palin herself "cost us control of the Senate."  She did back Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary, but that seat remains Republican either way.

Which brings us to Mort Kondracke, who has already argued:

"The people who got slapped the hardest in this election — besides Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama — are Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin.  Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin are responsible for the fact that the Senate did not go Republican. They’re the ones who are responsible for Christine O’Donnell. They’re the ones who are responsible for Joe Miller in Alaska. They’re the ones who are responsible for Ken Buck in Colorado. They’re the ones who are responsible for Sharron Angle in Nevada.”
 Again, as we said about Bachus's characterization, this is not accurate.  The tea party is arguably "responsible" for Buck and Angle, but Palin and DeMint certainly are not.

Tonight on FNC's Special Report, Kondracke added, "Jim DeMint is a guy who runs candidates in primaries against sitting senators."  This is just flat out wrong.  As far as I can tell, DeMint backed Miller on Sept 8, well after the GOP primary.  Am I wrong?

This kind of sloppiness gives the forces of ideological purity opportunities they do not deserve.

There is one question they need to answer and so far have not:  why did you back Christine O'Donnell when every sober analysis of the race pointed to a clear Castle victory and a certain O'Donnell loss?  Making factually inaccurate or exaggerated claims about Palin and DeMint's endorsements allows them to claim the high ground and evade blame for giving away a US Senate seat.

 Bachus, Kondracke and the like don't want to be seen as anti-populists, so they target their criticism at the "face" of the tea party rather than the movement itself.  I understand the motivation, but the resulting overreach only serves to assist those they intend to marginalize.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Can Robert Gibbs' Role Possibly Expand Any More Than It Already Has?

I see that Robert Gibbs is "seeking to carve out a role beyond briefing reporters" in the expected reorganization of the White House. Hey Mickey readers know that Gibb's role already extends into war fighting, economic central planning and deep sea engineeringRobert Draper just told us so.

Apparently Gibbs has a "faction" -- a faction so powerful that its advice outweighed Secretary Gates'  after Rolling Stone published its infamous McChrystal profile.  Gates wanted just a "reprimand,"
but "Gibbs and others argued that McChrystal had undermined the commander in chief and therefore must go. Obama sided with Gibbs's faction." 
Gibbs also helped to get Obama's approval for the Chrysler bailout:
"I was in the Roosevelt Room when the final decisions were made on the two auto companies," Gibbs recalls. "And I remember Chrysler was the one we discussed last. I'd asked someone before the meeting to pull together stuff on where the Chrysler plants were. And I spoke up at the meeting toward the end and said, 'These communities where the plants are, they're already at 17 to 19 percent unemployment.'

And finally we have, in his own words, Gibbs describing how President Obama put him in charge of the Gulf spill containment effort.  Not just the mid-crisis PR campaign either:

An undersea robotic vehicle in the Gulf had dislodged the containment cap on the BP well. Until the lid was reattached eleven hours later, a new torrent of oil spilled into the sea. Gibbs went back into the Oval to give Obama the news.
The president stared at Gibbs, stunned. "Well, why did it do that?" he demanded.
"Sir, we're trying to find that out."
"Gibbs," Obama said, "your job the rest of the day is to make sure that one of those vehicles doesn't do that again."

Newsweek Buys Weak Palinite Claims

Currently the most popular item on Newsweek's site is a mostly unremarkable mainstream media version of what I had anticipated would be Sarah Palin's election night defense of her role in throwing away the Delaware Senate race.  I was wrong.  I failed to predict that Palin would make the astonishingly implausible argument that Mike Castle would have also lost to Coons.

Newsweek's Ben Adler sort of combines the two arguments:

But it's strange that people seem so ready to assume that the GOP would have unquestionably won all those races [DE, CO & NV] with any old mainstream Republican as the nominee. ...  That sort of counterfactual history is always just a guessing game" and "must be contrasted with the overall boost that Tea Party candidates tended to get."
No it doesn't.  I've heard the same argument, offered much more colorfully, from paleocon acquaintances since the election and even well before.  I still just don't get it.   There is absolutely no evidence that by nominating Mike Castle in Delaware, the GOP's tea party boost would have been weakened in other states.  None.  Same is true in Colorado and Nevada.  Even Jim DeMint's backers note that he didn't get into those races until after the GOP primaries were decided.  So long as the GOP nominated candidates to the left of Lowell Weicker , they could have counted on just the same amount of tea party enthusiasm nationally.  Am I wrong?  Am I missing something?

So, memo to interlocutors in the coming months:

The claim that the Delaware loss was a small price to pay for the historic gains made by the tea party in other races is a glaring non sequitur.  Do not let it pass from the mouths of Palinites without immediate challenge

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Palin: O'Donnell Loss "Not Really A Surprise"; Castle Would Have Also Lost

Just a few minutes ago on FNC, Sarah Palin offered her first take on Christine O'Donnell's loss and her role in handing the seat to the Democrats.  Her new line is that the race for Biden's seat was a lost cause from the outset. 


Christine's defeat, of course in a deep blue state, is not really a surprise, disappointing for those who really wanted to shake it up in that state though.

I look forward to Karl Rove and others looking at what CNN is reporting, and other networks reporting, that exit polling is showing that Mike Castle even would have lost to Chris Coons. So, it’ll be interesting to see what their take is on that. There was never any guarantee that a hard-core conservative would win in a deep blue state like Delaware.

Welcome Politico And Swampland Readers

Politico's Ben Smith    and Time's Michael Crowley  were kind enough to link to my previous post today.  I'm just getting started here, and would very much appreciate any feedback or tips from my new readers.  Thanks for visiting.

Rove Notes Palin Never Campaigned For O'Donnell

Last night, Karl Rove -- who last week told The Daily Telegraph, “With all due candour, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of ‘that helps me see you in the Oval Office’” – added another wrinkle to his critique of Palin’s recent activities. Responding to question from sometime Palin handler Greta Van Sustern, Rove noted that Palin never found time to actually campaign for Christine O’Donnell despite endorsing her in the GOP primary.


She had to take time often campaign trail to do this ‘travelogue’ about Alaska. … She hasn't even been able to find time in her schedule to campaign for Christine O’Donnell, who I suspect would greatly welcome her attention. And that was my point. I just didn't see how this helped as much as other things and positioned herself to run for president. And I'm sorry she took offense. I hope she doesn't take offense at every analyst comment about her campaign if she decides to run because then it will be an awfully long two years. Having been through a couple of these campaigns, I know how precious these months are to a candidate who is thinking about running for president.”

At this point Rove is barely hiding his obvious contempt for Palin.  He wouldn't be so cavalier if he didn't have the implicit blessing of Romney and Haley Barbour.  I predict Palin will be forced to offer some sort of half-hearted apology within the week over her Delaware meddling.  She may just acknowledge failing to vet O'Donnell thoroughly, and then argue that the Delaware loss was a small price to pay for the national gains made thanks to tea party supporters like herself.  But even Sarah Palin can't get away with giving away a Senate seat, with an assist from Jim DeMint, without making some kind of amends to GOP donors.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Weekly Standard Vs. Palin?

Tonight on FNC's Special Report, Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, home to top Palin supporters Bill Kristol and Matt Continetti, said Politico's "story is accurate," and added a shot at her for "participating in Entertainment Tonight interviews" instead of discussing policy. 

The story is accurate. I think the story is reporting what is actually happening, the kinds of discussions that are happening among advisors for other candidates, establishment Republicans, and even amongst conservative movement types. There is this general question: is she serious about running? … If I am watching trying to determine whether she is going to run or not, I look to see how often she is talking about policy. When she talks about policy, when she gets serious...when she starts making arguments that are substantive and does less of the taking shots at reporters and participating in Entertainment Tonight interviews -- that’s when it’ll be a signal that she actually is serious about running.”
Apres Steve, le deluge?

Hannity Prepares For War With Romney And McConnell

Very little of what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity say on the radio every day gets referenced by mainstream political observers.  Each has more than 10 million listeners.  The hyper-partisan stuff is of little interest, but we should pay attention when they take shots at other conservatives. What were these millions of conservatives hearing the day before the election?

Faced with a couple hours of after-school chauffeuring, I decided to give Hannity a listen this afternoon.  Hannity was clearly very upset over the Allen-Vandehei Politico piece on the GOP "establishment" and its effort to keep Palin out of the '12 GOP presidential primary.  The hostility he feels toward the GOP insiders who leaked doubts about Palin to the insiders' insiders at Politico was clear and as of next week, he'll have a lot more time to devote to intra-party feuding.  Hannity has to know that Romney's people are behind this anti-Palin campaign.  Will Republicans pick a nominee who has an antagonistic relationship with Hannity, Limbaugh, etc again after having just gone through that process in 2008?

Hannity has also been openly belligerent towards the GOP Senate leadership since O'Donnell's primary win and the subsequent dust-up over Karl Rove's criticism of her.   Hannity couldn't possibly have been more supportive of Jim DeMint after he played a big part in throwing away the Delaware Senate race.  Another Politico article published just after the Delaware primary on GOP Senators' unhappiness with DeMint's meddling also drew Hannity's ire. He promised to bury Mitch McConnell if he retaliated in any way against DeMint.

New Bob-Mickey Diavlog

I am just now listening to Blogging Heads' Fifth Anniversary diavlog.  Mickey seems to have anticipated some of my questions.

"Decoupling": Dems Intra-Party Tax Cut Debate Two Days Before Midterms


The White House is apparently open to a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts "for the wealthy."  The Washington Post  is reporting:
the White House is losing hope that Congress will approve its plan to raise taxes on the nation's wealthiest families and is increasingly focusing on a new strategy that would preserve tax breaks for both the wealthy and the middle class. According to people familiar with talks at the White House and among senior Democrats on Capitol Hill, breaking apart the Bush administration tax cuts is now being discussed as a more realistic goal. That strategy calls for permanent extension of cuts that benefit families earning less than $250,000 a year, and temporary extension of cuts on income above that amount.
The move would "decouple" the two sets of provisions, Democrats said, and focus the debate when tax cuts for the rich expired next year or the year after. Republicans would be forced to defend carve-outs for a tiny minority populated by millionaires, an unpopular position that would be difficult to advance without the cover of a broad-based tax cut for everyone, aides in both parties said.

 Pandering to affluent voters you say?  No way.  Not one single White House official is quoted, on background or otherwise, backing temporary cuts.  And the White House's semi-secret rationale for contemplating such a move is said to be a cunning plan to set up another tax cut debate, with the parties in exactly the same roles they are in today, just before the president is up for re-election.

Yesterday morning, two prominent Democratic senators offered contrasting takes on the potential tax deal.  DSCC chair Robert Menendez, clearly most concerned with deflecting blame for the Dems' likely Senate massacre on his watch, said, "I certainly believe that there may be some opportunity for a temporary approval of some of these cuts."  On the other hand, Dick Durbin, presumably looking for President Obama's support in a leadership fight with Chuck Schumer, blamed those tax rates for "the greatest deficits in our history" and "massive unemployment.”

Whose idea was it to shoot down a compromise on tax cuts this summer?  I am willing to bet it was not Rahm Emanuel's idea to delay the inevitable until after the tax cut debate was used to paint Democrats as Mondale liberals.  Who is Obama listening to?  Gibbs?

Nate Silver, Chuck Todd And Senate Expectations

Seems to me that the consensus among those election analysts who pride themselves on their objectivity is that the GOP stands to gain eight Senate seats, or at least 6-8.

Why are they so confident Toomey will win in PA when the cw for several cycles has been that the Dems always finish strong there?

   Why are they giving Angle the edge?  After all, she's a race-baiting, anti-immigration candidate "way outside the mainstream" running against the Senate majority leader in a state with strong unions and tons of Hispanic voters.  Right?  The polls there are still damn close.

How about Washington?  Isn't that a lock for Murray?  Rossi hasn't led in a non-partisan poll not conducted by Rasmussen all year long.   Obama got 57% there just two years ago.  Why are the deep thinkers so unwilling to say Murray has the structural edge? 

Colorado is very close, and Buck seems like the kind of foot-in-mouth social conservative candidate that Colorado's libertarian-minded independents would be embarrassed to back.  Bennet is clean and wonky.

I say Nate Silver's calculations are to blame for this over-estimation of GOP strength.  fivethirtyeight has Toomey at a 92% chance of winning; Angle at 82 and Buck at 62.  Rossi has dropped to 15, but in mid-September  he was the favorite according to Silver's model.

Analysts who get the call to appear on some cable show or another but lack strong feelings about potential outcomes, or confidence in their own hunches, fall back on the nerd who did so well in 2008.   I contend that without Nate Silver and the fivethirtyeight phenomenon, Chuck Todd would be telling us that we need to watch Wisconsin to see if the GOP's flawed tea party challengers have any chance against well respected incumbents like Feingold (or Bennet or Murray or the non-incumbent "Admiral Sestak," a nearly perfect Democratic candidate on paper.)

Silver, a self-identified liberal, abetted by media analysts anxious not to be seen as having missed an historic electoral wave, has shifted the expectations game dramatically in the GOP's favor.

What say you Mickey?  Would we be anticipating an Angle victory if Silver had stuck with baseball?  I say the answer is a clear "no."